Instead of playing one game the length of two normal ones, like the Astros and Braves’ 18-inning marathon two weeks ago, the GW softball team played two games half as long as normally scheduled Saturday.
In the final games of their fall season, the Colonials won both parts of their doubleheader via the eight-run “mercy rule,” first against Catholic 8-0, then against Villa Julie (Md.) 11-0. Both opponents are smaller Division III programs, and the games were approached by GW as warm-ups to get a few sure wins under their belt.
“It’s always a good test for our girls to walk out against (Division III teams) and know that they’re better and expect to win,” coach Jo Anne Ferguson said. “We’ve just now gotten to the point where we’re ready for the next level of competition. It’s always good to come out and make sure we don’t play down to anybody’s level.”
In each game, GW got out to an early lead and never looked back.
In the second game, GW took advantage of multiple Villa Julie miscues in the second inning and got out to a 3-0 lead. After an ill-advised throw to third allowed GW’s first run to score, the Villa Julie first baseman dropped a routine throw, allowing two more runs to score.
With a comfortable lead throughout the game, Ferguson took advantage of the opportunity to show off the team’s depth this season. Most starters were taken out by the fourth inning of each game, but there was little noticeable letdown when the backups took over.
Against Catholic, the Colonials scored four runs in the second inning on a series of hits and opponent miscues. Sophomore outfielder Chrysanthi Halkiotis blew the game open two innings later with a bases-loaded single that, due to aggressive base running, cleared the bases.
The team’s pitching staff is particularly deep this season, as the team has six pitchers it relies on near equally. Sophomore Jen Hrycyna started the game against Catholic before giving way to sophomore Gabby Culp, and freshmen Carrie Hidgon and Kristin Gallant pitched against Villa Julie.
“We’re very deep at several positions,” Ferguson said. “In particular, when you play almost 60 games a year, you need six pitchers to keep them healthy and effective.”
“We all played really well today,” sophomore second basemen Catherine Belanger said. “This year we have a whole lot more depth on the team so a lot more people can fill in. I think we can keep it up into the spring.”
At 5 feet tall, Belanger has emerged as a large figure on the team. A prototype of the fundamentally sound, energetic player that Ferguson said she likes, Belanger executes sacrifice bunts efficiently, allowing the bigger bats in the lineup to drive in the runs. In the field, she reminds the other players how many outs there are and engages in individual routines with almost every player on the team after an out.
“(Belanger) is a little spark-plug out in the field,” Ferguson said. “She’s playing with a lot of confidence. That’s a situation where an underclassman stepped up into a leadership role and we need everybody to do that in the field.”
The team played fundamentally sound in both games, with very few walks, errors or passed balls that lead to big innings for opposing teams. Belanger said the team takes its daily fundamentals drills very seriously and the effort translates to results in the field. Although GW can get away with some mistakes against weak competition, better teams will capitalize on the mistakes in the spring.
“When we start playing the better teams like U-Mass and Fordham, fundamentals make a huge difference,” Ferguson said. “We’ve got to put the bunt down, we can’t miss signs, and we have to make every routine play. We’re doing those things now and I hope we can carry it into the spring season.”
The Colonials do not play another game until they go on a spring-break trip to Florida to get some experience against out-of-conference teams before the spring season starts.